Rabu, 4 Januari 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Comcast, Disney ink 10-year carriage deal for TV, Web

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:04 PM PST

REUTERS - Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, and Walt Disney Co on Wednesday said they had reached a comprehensive 10-year programming carriage deal for TV, Web and mobile devices.

The agreement covers Disney's various networks including ABC and ESPN, and will allow Comcast's Xfinity TV customers to watch those networks live or on-demand on multiple devices both in and outside of their homes.

It gives a big boost to the cable TV industry's push for programmers and distributors to reach agreements that will enable paying subscribers to watch their favorite shows whenever they choose, and possibly wherever they are in the continental United States.

This push is an attempt by the traditional cable business to make its services more attractive to subscribers who may cut the cord and flee to more flexible and cheaper new video services from companies like Netflix Inc, Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc among others.

However, cable and satellite TV distributors have pushed back in programming fee negotiations over whether they should pay significantly more so their subscribers can watch the shows online or on other devices outside the home.

"There is incentive for the content companies and cable operators to be in all the screens," said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce. "And ESPN in particular has the content that lends itself to multiple screens quite well - as well as monetizing it through various forms of advertising."

Also included in the Comcast/Disney deal is a broadcast retransmission agreement for ABC's seven broadcast stations and Comcast will launch Disney Junior - a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children. Comcast will also provide its Xfinity customers with access to live Disney networks. In all, the agreement covers more than 70 services.

Comcast, which took control of NBC Universal a year ago, has more than 22.5 million subscribers. It has avoided many of the worst programming fee disputes which other cable operators have faced as they battle against rising programming fees. Analysts said being the largest U.S. distributor puts it in a powerful negotiating position with programmers probably avoiding conflicts and annual threats of blackouts.

Time Warner Cable Inc, the second largest cable operator, reached a programming deal with Disney in September, 2010 that also included some digital rights for some networks and the launch of Disney Junior, but was not as comprehensive as this latest Comcast deal.

Comcast and Disney did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.

Analysts speculated it is likely Comcast would pay more for the programming given the additional digital rights.

"Now that they're able to get these digital deals done I expect they will want to get as many digital rights as possible, the question is how much will it cost them," said Thomas Eagan, an analyst at Collins Stewart.

"I think you're going to see higher costs for other distributors like DirecTV as they all push for digital rights," he added.

Shares of Comcast ended up 1 percent at $24.73 on Nasdaq, while shares of Disney rose 1.4 percent to $38.85 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Jillian Michaels doesn't rule out returning to 'Loser'

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 04:49 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With health and fitness guru Jillian Michaels leaving her gig on ''The Doctors,'' might she return to ''The Biggest Loser'' for a third run?

Don't rule it out.

''We never say never,'' Michaels' representative, Ashley Sandberg, told TheWrap on Wednesday.

Michaels appeared on the NBC weight-loss competition from 2004-06 and then again from 2007-2011. Her successor, Anna Kournikova, lasted just one season, so there's an opening.

And the show might benefit from Michaels' star power: It returned Tuesday night to ratings that were down 30 percent from last January's season 11 premiere. That season was the last to feature Michaels.

A rep for ''The Biggest Loser'' declined to comment.

Michaels said in a statement Wednesday that she was leaving the syndicated health show ''The Doctors'' this month and that it ''wasn't the fit both the show and I hoped for.''

''I have enjoyed my time on the show and the opportunity it provided me in my mission to help others improve their lives. ... It was a great experience and I wish the show nothing but success.''

A rep for ''The Doctors'' issued this statement to TheWrap: ''Jillian has contributed greatly to our show this season, and we value her talent and insight as she has inspired countless people to improve their lives. Although it wasn't the fit we both hoped for, our original four doctors will continue to provide our audience with the gold standard medical content we've delivered since our show's inception. Jillian will always be a part of 'The Doctors' family.''

Michaels' ''Doctors'' departure was first reported by the New York Post.

The Post reports Michaels could return to ''The Doctors'' for occasional guest appearances. Michaels' rep says she is ''focusing on all of the exciting projects she has lined up for 2012 and beyond.''

Michaels is releasing a kickboxing-themed DVD, ''Kickbox Fastfix,'' in March, and will continue to make appearances as a fitness expert on ''Dr. Phil.''

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'Martha Stewart Show' ending after this season

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 04:45 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - ''The Martha Stewart'' show will not return to The Hallmark Channel after this season, but the network hopes to continue to work with Stewart on other programming, TheWrap has confirmed.

Stewart's show will stop taping live episodes in the spring, and will air reruns in the summer. Then it will end, and Stewart and the network will look to work together in other ways, a person familiar with the situation told TheWrap.

The official word of the show's ending was as gracious and gentle as, well, a Hallmark card:

''The daytime block on Hallmark Channel demonstrated year over year ratings growth and earned 'The Martha Stewart Show' two Daytime Emmy Awards in its first season on Hallmark,'' Hallmark and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said in a statement. ''That show will continue to air through the end of summer 2012. MSLO and Hallmark Channel are in discussions about potential new show formats and concepts for daytime.''

The key language is that the show will ''continue to air through the end of summer 2012.'' After that, the person familiar with the situation confirmed to TheWrap, the show will end.

The show, which was syndicated before it joined Hallmark, has aired for seven seasons and is folding due to falling ratings. But it represented a major comeback for Stewart after she served five months in prison after she was convicted of lying to investigators about a 2001 sale of Imclone shares.

She rejoined the board of MSLO last May, after a five-year-period in which she was barred from being a director or officer in a public company under the terms of a settlement of the charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The New York Post first reported the show was ending in a story Wednesday morning. The Post also reported that Home Depot will no longer sell Martha Stewart Living-branded paints but will allow customers to mix her color palette into Glidden-branded paints.

MSLO president Lisa Gersh took issue with the story in an internal company email obtained by TheWrap. It uses some of the same language as the official statement on the show's end, and is printed below in its entirety.

Hi everyone:

Today's New York Post business section had an inaccurate and negative portrayal of some of MSLO's businesses, including its television production relationship with Hallmark and its paint business with The Home Depot. Unfortunately, the reporter, whose story cited unnamed 'sources,' stopped far short of including all the facts that MSLO presented to her and leaves readers with several incorrect impressions.

In fact, MSLO has never had a more vibrant, more diversified umbrella of strong, popular brands and loyal, enthusiastic audiences across TV, digital, print and radio, as well as across numerous product lines available through top retail partners.

The Martha Stewart brand has been a successful TV presence for nearly two decades and we expect that to continue.

The daytime block on Hallmark demonstrated year-over-year ratings growth and 'The Martha Stewart Show' earned two Emmys in its first season. The show will continue on Hallmark through the end of this season and we are currently exploring programming concepts for Martha Stewart and other MSLO brands beyond this fall. In addition, MSLO continues its thriving partnership with The Home Depot (THD), which spans a number of home and decor categories, including our very popular paint palette, and they continue to perform well.

As just a reminder of the power of our audiences and brands, a recent study conducted in August last year by Public Strategies indicated that Martha Stewart remains a strong brand with incredible awareness. Unaided, meaning without being prompted, 53% of women name Martha Stewart as the first person who comes to mind for providing lifestyle ideas and information on the home. The next-closest competitor is mentioned by only 6% of women, and that's Rachael Ray.


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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Hague in Myanmar to look at reforms first-hand

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 08:06 PM PST

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary William Hague began a landmark visit to Myanmar on Thursday to get a first-hand view of "encouraging" reforms being pursued by its civilian leadership, but officials said he would set out conditions for the lifting of sanctions.

Foreign Secretary William Hague arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London November 29, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The two-day visit by Hague is the first by a British foreign minister since the military seized power in 1962.

As the former colonial power, a visit by a British cabinet minister is seen as one of the most significant diplomatic initiatives since an army-backed civilian government embarked on a series of reforms last year.

Britain has maintained a tough stand on human rights issues in the former Burma, but expressed guarded optimism after the release on October 12 of 230 political prisoners, with freedom for remaining hundreds a key demand by the West for the lifting of sanctions.

Hague arrived in Naypyitaw, the capital built in secret six years ago, where he will meet president and former junta general Thein Sein on Thursday. He will travel to the main city, Yangon, and is due to hold talks on Friday with Oxford-educated pro-democracy leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"This visit ... has been made possible by the encouraging recent steps taken by the Burmese government," Hague said in a statement.

"I am visiting the country to encourage the Burmese government to continue its path of reform and to gauge what more Britain can do to support this process."

His trip follows one late last year by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who promised concrete support from Washington if Myanmar released more political prisoners and made more concessions, including dialogue with ethnic separatists.

Britain will seek similar proof of good faith, a British official said in London before Hague left.

It would push within the European Union for the easing of sanctions if there was substantial progress on three benchmarks: the release of all remaining political detainees, the holding of free and fair by-elections in April and bringing ethnic groups into the mainstream political process, he said.

Just 12 political detainees were thought to have been freed this week among 900 prisoners freed as an Independence Day gesture. As many as 600 may remain behind bars.

In a speech carried in Wednesday's state media to mark the former Burma's independence from Britain on January 4, 1948, Thein Sein warned of "powerful nations" seeking to impinge on the "independence and sovereignty" of weaker countries -- comments typical of the ultra-nationalist junta regime.


The visit is a tricky balancing act for Hague, who will face criticism at home if he is seen as appeasing a government stacked with former members of the military regime slammed for its human rights record and brutal suppression of dissent.

Rights violations by the army are still reported from areas where the army and ethnic groups are fighting.

"Hague can't appear to go soft. The Burma issue has become a political football at home and if he's not forthright, he will be criticised," said Derek Tonkin, a prominent Myanmar analyst and former British diplomat.

"But there's a feeling that we have been battering away at the Burmese for 22 years and not got anywhere. Britain is very much under the influence of the Americans," he said, noting Britain's discouragement of trade, tourism and investment was far heavier than that of the EU in general.

Both the European Union and United States have voiced qualified support for the new government and Myanmar's neighbours in Asia, especially India, Thailand and China, are rushing to snap up deals to build infrastructure and invest in natural resources including oil, gas, gemstones and timber.

British firms in the energy and financial services sectors in particular are believed to be interested in Myanmar, but Hague's visit is likely to be little more than a testing of the water before the EU holds its annual sanctions review in April.

He could discuss possible inducements such as development aid or humanitarian assistance, which, if supported by Suu Kyi, could placate his staunchest critics at home.

She has shown a willingness to compromise in recent months, notably by agreeing to run as a candidate in an April by-election after letting her party re-enter the political process.

"Hague could offer some small concessions but at the moment, he's there to deliver the message that lifting economic sanctions requires more genuine reforms," said Mark Farmaner, director of the UK Burma Campaign.

"Britain will be very careful. There's broad support for engagement, but I don't think they'll move too fast," he added, noting that reforms could take a long time.

(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Alan Raybould and Ed Lane)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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"Rage against Americans" cited in L.A. arson case

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 07:17 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A German citizen was charged on Wednesday with setting dozens of fires across Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend in a spree an arson investigator said was motivated by a "rage against Americans."

Harry Burkhart, 24, is detained by the Los Angeles county sheriff's department on suspicion of setting dozens of fires across Los Angeles, in West Hollywood, January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Gene

Harry Burkhart, 24, who is also wanted in Germany on suspicion of burning down his home, was charged with 37 counts of arson stemming from the three-day wave of fires that caused an estimated $3 million in damage and left residents of Los Angeles and surrounding communities shaken.

Burkhart, who was guarded closely by three sheriffs deputies and at times appeared disoriented during a brief hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, was ordered held on $2.85 million bail.

Prosecutors asked the judge to order Burkhart, who was born in Chechnya, held without bail, citing his German citizenship and saying he posed a danger to the community.

Police arson investigator Edward Nordskog said most of the more than 50 fires were set late at night, while the occupants of apartment buildings were sleeping.

"It is my opinion that the defendant's criminal spree was motivated by his rage against Americans and that by setting these fires (the) defendant intended to harm and terrorize as many residents of the city and county of Los Angeles as possible," Nordskog wrote in court papers.

Nordskog did not say what he believed touched off the anti-American rage in Burkhart, whose mother is facing possible extradition to Germany on fraud charges.

A law enforcement official said Burkhart has been held on suicide watch at the Los Angeles County jail since his arrest on Monday.

State prosecutors in Germany said Burkhart was suspected of starting a fire that burned down his family's home in Neukirchen.

"He is accused of serious arson and suspected fraud. In the early hours of October 14, a timbered house went on fire in the Schwalm-Eder district and this person came under suspicion," said German state prosecutor Annemarie Wied.


Burkhart's 53-year-old mother, Dorothee Burkhart, was arrested last week in Los Angeles on a provisional warrant issued by German authorities and was facing extradition.

The elder Burkhart, who has been living in a Los Angeles apartment with her son, faces multiple charges of fraud and embezzlement in Germany, according to court documents.

She is accused of failing to pay a bill for breast augmentation, failing to return security deposits on rental properties she leased, and accepting money for apartment units she did not own, the court documents showed.

Dorothee Burkhart, also a German citizen, seemed unaware during a court appearance on Tuesday that her son had been arrested and asked a judge if the "German Nazis" were responsible for him disappearing.

There was conflicting information on how long Dorothee and Harry Burkhart have lived in the Los Angeles area.

A website for an erotic massage service based in Los Angeles is registered to a Dorothee Burkhart who shares the same address as Harry Burkhart. The site advertises topless but non-sexual sessions by appointment only.

Harry Burkhart was arrested after a tip from a member of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security field office who recognized him on surveillance videotape from an outburst during his mother's initial court hearing, a state department spokeswoman said.

According to the declaration filed by Nordskog, Harry Burkhart was ejected from the courtroom during December 29 extradition proceedings for his mother after angrily shouting a profanity against Americans.

A man resembling Burkhart was captured on security cameras leaving the scene of several of the fires, which caused no fatalities. One firefighter was injured and another person suffered from smoke inhalation.

One of the fires damaged a house in the Hollywood Hills where late rocker Jim Morrison was inspired to write the 1968 song "Love Street" about his girlfriend.

(Additional reporting by Hillel Aron in Los Angeles and Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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Prison fight in northern Mexico kills 31 inmates

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 07:15 PM PST

RIO BRAVO, Mexico (Reuters) - A fight between rival gangs inside a prison in northern Mexico left 31 inmates dead in the latest violence to erupt inside the country's overcrowded jails, local officials said on Wednesday.

Clashes between prisoners wielding knives and homemade weapons started around mid-day and were controlled several hours later in Altamira, Tamaulipas, on Mexico's Gulf coast, said state government spokesman Guillermo Martinez.

Thirteen other inmates were wounded, the state government said.

Powerful drug cartels are fighting for control of smuggling routes along the U.S.-Mexico border and rivalries often spread into the prison system, where prisoners held on federal drug charges are mixed with common criminals.

Last October, twenty died in a prison fight at another jail in Tamaulipas and in July, 17 inmates were killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent city, across from El Paso, Texas.

More than 46,000 people have died in Mexico in the past five years since President Felipe Calderon launched a frontal attack on drug gangs. Packed and inefficient prisons often suffer from corruption and mass escapes.

Violence exploded in Tamaulipas state after the Zetas gang broke away from the Gulf cartel and began battling their former employers for turf.

(Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom, writing by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Finger costs India's Kohli half of match fee

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:48 PM PST

SYDNEY, (Reuters): India batsman Virat Kohli was fined half of his match fee on Thursday for responding to barracking from the crowd by gesturing at them with his middle finger on day two of the second test against Australia.

India spent all day in the field at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, taking just one wicket as the Australian batsmen ran rampant and put themselves in a good position to go 2-0 up in the series.

Kohli, fielding at the boundary for much of the day, tweeted that he had been sorely provoked before responding with the finger gesture.

"I agree cricketers dont have to retaliate. What when the crowd says the worst things about your mother and sister. The worst I've heard," he posted on his twitter page (twitter.com/imvkohli).

India team spokesman GS Walia told reporters on Thursday that match referee Ranjan Madugalle had fined Kohli 50 percent of his match fee for the offense.

The player had pleaded guilty and was sorry for his action, Walia added.

The four-match series has so far been played largely in a good spirit, in stark contrast with the 2008 Sydney test which was marred by accusations that India spinner Harbhajan Singh had racially abused Australia's Andrew Symonds.

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Shabery to use his power to deal with irresponsible associations

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:44 PM PST

PUTRAJAYA: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek has taken a swipe at two sports associations for their lack of urgency in handling the positive dope test of their athletes.

Shabery slammed the Malaysian Athletic Union (MAU) and Malaysia Weightlifting Federation (MWF) yesterday for not requesting for the B sample to be tested after their respective athletes.

The two athletes tested positive for a banned substance during the SEA Games in Indonesia in November.

The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) received a letter from the Indonesia SEA Games Organising Committee (Inasoc) on Dec 21 stating that a gold medallist from the athletics team and a bronze medallist from the weightlifting team had failed their doping tests, which were carried out randomly during the Games.

OCM immediately notified the MAU and MWF about the matter but neither took any steps to defend their athletes, preferring instead to remain silent.

When the appeal period ended, Inasoc decided to go ahead and test the B sample to verify their earlier findings.

The result for the B sample will be known next week.

Shabery said he would not hesitate to use his power to check the lackadaisical attitude of the associations.

"I was shocked with the news of our athletes failing the doping tests. But what irked me most was the lack of reaction from both the associations. There was neither any statement nor stand to defend their athletes. Their silence only fuelled speculation," said Shabery.

"Was it the mistake of the coach or the athletes? All of us want an answer. I hope the associations will be more responsible. They should have shown more urgency to demand for the B sample to be tested and not just keep quiet about it.

"I take this (matter) very seriously. If I find that the associations have erred, I will not hesitate to use the power vested in me to take action."

When told that the associations themselves were probably unsure of the proper procedure, Shabery replied curtly: "Ignorance is no excuse.

"No one should take up a post in an association and not know the rules and procedures. They can always consult the OCM, NSC (National Sports Council) and NSI (National Sports Institute). For goodness sake, they received the letter on Dec 21 ... this gave them ample time to seek advice."

Shabery was particularly concerned with the MAU, whose athletes were embroiled in a doping controversy last year.

Instead of participating in a random dope test, the athletes "ran off" to Bulgaria and the coaches defended the move by saying that they were pressed for time.

"They had 1,000 excuses for missing the test. Now, this happens with the same association. We can ignore the first incident as a mistake. Now that it is happening again, it raises suspicion," said Shabery.

"If these athletes are found guilty, somebody has to be held responsible. Is it just the athletes? Did anyone give them instructions? Or is it the coaches? Who selected the coaches? Someone must be held accountable.

"Right now, we are in the speculation stage and I pray that the B sample test will return negative. But if it is positive, then it will be a sad day for Malaysian sport.

"And I won't tolerate this anymore."

If the athletes are found guilty of taking the banned substance, their medals will be revoked and they will have to return the cash incentives given by the government during a special ceremony graced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

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Naim: Severe punishment for those found guilty

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 02:10 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A crying shame!

That was the first reaction of Malaysia's chef-de-mission for the SEA Games, Datuk Naim Mohd, when asked about two of our athletes being tested positive for a banned substance during the Games in November,

The athletes' B samples are being tested and Malaysia will have to relinquish one gold medal and one bronze medal if the results from the second samples are the same.

It is learnt that the gold medal came from athletics and the bronze from weightlifting.

The outcome of the B samples will be known in a week.

At the Games, Malaysian athletes did the country proud by defying the vociferous and fanatical local supporters to rake in a medal haul of 59-50-81, finishing fourth overall behind Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Naim said that he only found out about the doping recently although a letter regarding the act was sent to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) in December.

"It is disappointing that our athletes have been tested positive for a banned substance. We have given the athletes, coaches and officials ample warning to watch what they take and to be aware of what they consume. And now, we have to greet the New Year with this sad news," said Naim.

"Hopefully, the B sample will turn out to be negative."

If found guilty, Naim wants those involved to be severely punished.

"And I am not only talking about the athletes. The coaches and the associations should also face the music. Coaches should have direct information of what their athletes consume and the associations should be responsible for their athletes," he said.

"This is a bad start to an important year for Malaysian sports, with the Olympic Games looming. This tarnishes the sport's image."

OCM secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said that they received a letter from Inasoc (Indonesia SEA Games Organising Committee) on Dec 21 and that they immediately informed the Malaysian Athletic Union (MAU) and the Malaysia Weightlifting Federation (MWF).

"When I got the letter, I informed only two people – Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan (chairman of anti-doping agency of Malaysia) and OCM president Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar. However, the news spread. I am not in a position to reveal the identity of these athletes," said Kok Chi.

"In most cases, the athletes are innocent. Sometimes, these athletes may have consumed vitamins or medication that may have contained the banned substance.

"We need to create more awareness on doping issues and send out clear messages to coaches and officials if they are involved too."

Meanwhile, Kok Chi said that two things could happen if the B samples were positive.

The associations would be informed of the result and it would be the prerogative of the association to take the necessary disciplinary actions.

Secondly, Malaysia will have to give up the gold and bronze medals won by the two athletes.

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The Star Online: Business

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JCY to see surge in net profit

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:42 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: JCY International Bhd says it is likely to record a year-on-year net profit increase of approximately 1,900% for its first financial quarter ended Dec 31, 2011 from RM7.5mil netted in the same period a year ago.

The company said in an announcement to Bursa Malaysia yesterday that its quarter-on-quarter net profits will also surge 460% compared with the immediate preceding financial fourth quarter ended Sept 30, 2011 of RM26.4mil.

The hard disk drive (HDD) components maker and supplier said that this increase was due to the rise in average selling prices caused by component shortages arising from the October 2011 floods in Thailand.

It also attributed this increase to the appreciating US dollar versus the ringgit and some cost management efforts.

The company said it would utilise these additional profits for capital expansion. Its board of directors had approved an allocation of RM300mil over the next two years for expansion facilities in Malaysia, Thailand and China.

JCY's shares has been in the limelight topping the daily actives list over the past two months chalking up extraordinary gains of almost 200% to close at RM1.18 yesterday from its all time low of 39.5 sen in Sept.

The company's shares, for a period of time last year, fell out of favour from investors due to the evolving technology storage space industry with the wide availability of cheaper solid state drives (SSDs) that analysts say had now become an affordable alternative to HDDs. SSDs are used today in smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks.

As recent as the quarter ended June 30, 2011, JCY reported a loss and had attributed it to lower selling prices, declining sales volume and a strong ringgit.

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Local bourse continues positive new year trading

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:13 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI continues its positive start for the new year while other key Asian bourses traded mixed against cautious global economic atmosphere.

The local benchmark traded higher at 1506.50 points, up 2.28 points or 0.15% at 9.38a.m.

There were 187 gainers, 140 losers and 198 unchanged counters. 237.38mil shares were traded worth RM131.47mil.

Gainers were led by blue chip Nestle (M) Bhd, climbing 40 sen to RM56.40; Timberwell Bhd up 28 sen to RM1.08 while United Plantations Bhd gained 20 sen to RM19.40.

Counters in the red were Bright Packaging Industry Bhd sliding 11 sen to RM0.51; Far East Holdings Bhd dropping 10 sen to RM7.10 and Petronas Dagangan Bhd falling 46sen to RM56.02.

Hwang DBS Vickers Research was quoted: "If the FBM KLCI falls beneath the psychological mark of 1,500 then the benchmark index could pull back further ahead."

The research house added that the key market barometer dropped for the second day in a row, slipping 9.3 points to bring its cumulative loss to 26.5 points or 1.7% since the beginning of the year.

"In contrast, its closest regional peers the Philippines (+1.5%), Indonesia (+1.3%) and Thailand (+1.1%) chalked up strong gains," it said.

It expects stocks like JCY International, Proton and UEM Land to garner investors' attention today, albeit against a cautious market backdrop.

Reasons being JCY International, in an unprecedented practice by Malaysia corporate, had announced via the stock exchange that the group is expected to show a steep jump of 1,900% year-on-year and 460% quarter-on-quarter in its net profit to approximately RM150m for the Oct-Dec 2011 quarter.

Also, Proton having its chairman publicly said he has put in a bid to buy over Khazahan Nasional's 42.7% stake in the national car maker and UEM Land, given its exposure in Iskandar Development, more investments and initiatives may be announced when the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Singapore meet this morning.

Around the region, bourses were mixed. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.57% to 8510.90 and Shanghai A index was down 0.50% to 2168.33. Closer to home, Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.04% to 2709.85.

Taiwan's Taiex inched up 0.14% to 7092.60; Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index recorded a 0.42% increase at 18806.16 while Korea's Kospi went up 0.35% to 1872.75.

Nymex crude oil was quoted at US$103.19, spot gold at US$1615.70 and silver at US$29.31.

The US dollar was quoted at 3.1402 while the euro at 4.0582.

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Belgian wins in Franco-German battle for ECB top job

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 04:13 PM PST

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank (ECB) put an end to a bitter battle between France and Germany over a key post within the bank by naming a Belgian to the highly-coveted position of chief economist.

The ECB said executive board member Peter Praet of Belgium would be taking over as the head of its economics department, succeeding Juergen Stark of Germany, who stepped down at the end of 2011.

Praet, who turns 63 later this month and has been a member of the ECB's executive board since June 2011, "will be responsible for economics, human resources, budget and organisation" under a redistribution of responsibilities following the change-over of two board seats, the ECB said in a statement.

The decision came as a surprise since two incoming board members, Joerg Asmussen of Germany and Benoit Coeure of France, had been seen as the top rival candidates to take over the key economics portfolio.

Asmussen, however, will be responsible for international and European relations, meaning he will be the ECB's representative at international meetings and attend meetings of the so-called Eurogroup and ECOFIN.

He would also be responsible for legal services and overseeing the building of the ECB's new premises and the central bank's permanent representation in Washington.

Coeure will take charge of information systems and market operations.

The other three members of the six-member board which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the ECB are bank president Mario Draghi of Italy, vice president Vitor Constancio of Portugal and Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo of Spain.

Both Berlin and Paris had laid claim to the coveted economics portfolio in recent months amid deepening differences over the role the ECB should take in the eurozone debt crisis.

Ever since the shock announcement in September that Stark was leaving early he was the ECB's economist since 2006 and his contract would normally have stayed to May 2014 Germany had assumed its number two at the finance ministry, Asmussen, would automatically take over. AFP

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Govt to introduce measures to address Christian community's concerns

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 05:35 AM PST

Published: Wednesday January 4, 2012 MYT 9:36:00 PM

PUTRAJAYA: The Government will introduce several measures to address concerns raised by the Christian community.

These include the appointment of heads of mission schools, teaching of Bible Knowledge and tax exemption status for Christian organisations.

The decision made by the Cabinet Wednesday was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a luncheon hosted for senior leaders of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the Education Ministry would engage and consult the respective school boards so that school heads appointed would be suitable and acceptable.

On Bible Knowledge for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, Dr Koh said the subject would be taught in schools after school hours upon parents' request.

A procedure would also be put in place to ensure donations to churches recognised and certified by CFM would be given tax exemption.

"The Prime Minister gave due recognition to the tremendous contributions of mission schools and their wish that the ethos and traditions of such schools be maintained.

"The Prime Minister also reiterated the support given by the Government to mission schools with a total of RM240mil allocated over the past four years, including RM100mil under the 2012 Budget," Dr Koh said.

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Pua alleges MAHB withheld crucial information on new KLIA2 site

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 05:28 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Action must be taken against those who withheld crucial information from relevant ministry officials over the site where KLIA2 is currently being constructed at a substantially higher cost, said DAP national publicity chief Tony Pua.

He alleged that Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB) had intentionally chosen not to disclose the information to the officials, despite knowing full well that KLIA West was unsuitable for airport construction and would incur a substantially higher cost, from the originally estimated RM1.7bil in 2007 to RM3.9bil last year.

"The 1992 Master Plan had clearly stated that 'the western part of the site mainly comprises saturated marine clays with an overlay of peat material'.

"It also said that 'the combination of the drainage problems and the type of material means that the western part of the site has poor bearing qualities and is not suitable for airport construction without undertaking significant engineering measures to improve load bearing capacity'," he told a press conference here Wednesday.

He said MAHB had failed to highlight the fact that the new KLIA2 would cost substantially more due to reasons that had already been identified in the 1992 KLIA Master Plan at a presentation to the Finance, Home and Transport Ministries officials on April 15, 2008.

Based on the presentation documents and the minutes of the meeting, he said, MAHB had instead made a 360-degree turn by recommending KLIA West as the new site for the new lost-cost terminal.

At an earlier meeting on July 6, 2007, Pua said MAHB had reconfirmed that KLIA North was the best option available to build the new KLIA2.

When contacted, MAHB Operation Services senior general manager Azmi Murad declined to comment on the matter.

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Felda settlers withdraw injunction application over EGM

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 04:52 AM PST

Published: Wednesday January 4, 2012 MYT 8:52:00 PM

KUANTAN: Four Felda settlers have withdrawn their application for an injunction to stop Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia's (KPF) extraordinary general meeting, as it has been cancelled indefinitely.

High Court judge Justice Mariana Yahya advised Rosdi Ismail, Alias Ibrahim, Abdullah Mohamad and Rakiah Sulong to drop their summons as the court had been told that the meeting scheduled to be held Wednesday had been called off.

The plaintiffs, who were represented by counsel Mohd Harris Abdullah, had filed the originating summons against KPF and Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd (FGVH) in Temerloh on Dec 23 last year.

They were seeking to block KPF's meeting, its decision to dispose of its assets in Felda Holdings as well as the listing of FGVH in Bursa Malaysia.

Mohd Harris said his clients decided to drop the summons as there was no point to continue since KPF's decisions cannot be made now.

"In the event that KPF decides to hold another extraordinary general meeting, we will file another injunction application," he said.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Director Scorsese to receive UK's BAFTA fellowship

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 03:23 AM PST

LONDON (Reuters) - "Raging Bull" director Martin Scorsese will be honoured with a fellowship by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) at the organisation's annual awards ceremony on February 12.

The fellowship, BAFTA's highest honour, recognises a lifetime's contribution to film, and previous recipients include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Laurence Olivier.

"Martin Scorsese is a legend in his lifetime; a true inspiration to all young directors the world over," said BAFTA chairman Tim Corrie.

Scorsese, also a producer and screenwriter who made acclaimed movies including "Taxi Driver" and "Gangs of New York", has been nominated nine times for a BAFTA, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars.

The 69-year-old has won three times, all in 1991 for "Goodfellas". He also had a string of Oscar nominations before finally winning a statuette for his 2006 picture "The Departed".

As well as adult dramas, Scorsese is behind several documentaries about music and musicians and his last film was the 3D family adventure "Hugo".

Nominations for the 2012 BAFTAs will be announced on January 17 with the winners unveiled at London's Royal Opera House on February 12.

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Meryl Streep to get Berlin Film Festival lifetime award

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 09:29 PM PST

(Reuters) - Meryl Streep will get a lifetime achievement award from the Berlin Film Festival in February, along with a retrospective of some of her most famous movies of the past 30 years.

Festival organizers said Streep, 62, who is currently starring as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," would be presented with an honorary Golden Bear on Feb. 14.

"We are delighted to be able to award the Honorary Golden Bear to such a terrific artist and world star. Meryl Streep is a brilliant, versatile performer who moves with ease between dramatic and comedic roles," Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement on Monday.

Organizers plan to screen six of Streep's movies, including her Oscar winning roles in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Sophie's Choice" during the film festival next month.

The New Jersey-born Streep, considered the greatest living screen actress, has a record 16 Oscar nominations and is considered a front-runner for a 17th nod for her portrayal of Thatcher when Academy Award nominations are announced on Jan. 26 in Beverly Hills.

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Patricia Arquette to play Jeff Buckley's mother in film

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 05:50 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Patricia Arquette will play the mother of Jeff Buckley in Jake Scott's biopic, ''Mystery White Boy,'' TheWrap has confirmed.

Arquette will play Mary Guibert, the widow of singer/songwriter Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley's father. The size of her role has not been made known.

The film is currently in preproduction in Memphis, where Jeff Buckley accidentally drowned in May 1997. He was 30.

Jeff Buckley will be played by Reeve Carney, star of ''Snow Falling on Cedars'' and the Broadway musical ''Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.'' Carney is also a skilled musician; his band, Carney, opened for U2 and the Arcade Fire at a concert earlier this year.

The cast also features John Patrick Amedori as Michael Tighe, a singer/songwriter who performed and wrote songs with Jeff Buckley.

Like Carney, Jake Scott - the son of Ridley Scott - has music-industry affiliations. He previously directed videos by U2, R.E.M. and Radiohead.

''Mystery White Boy'' - which is the name of a 2000 collection of Jeff Buckley's live recordings - is written by Ryan Jaffe (''The Rocker'') and based off David Browne's book ''Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley.'' It is being produced by Michelle Sy and Orian Williams, co-executive produced by Amy Vaughan King and executive produced by Guibert.

''Mystery White Boy'' is not to be confused with the biopic ''Greetings From Tim Buckley,'' which is also in the works.

The news about her casting as Guibert was originally reported by Variety.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Johoreans concerned over everyday issues

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 10:45 PM PST

JOHOREANS are hoping for this year to bring about changes in their lives such as better racial ties, more wealth, good security in the state and for the country to excel in sports.

While some are gearing up as first time voters in the impending general elections this year, many are just interested in bread and butter issues such as having a roof over their heads and hoping for more goodies from the government to help with the rising cost of living.

The Star spoke to several Johoreans on their hopes and aspirations.

Businessman Chan Ah Kow, 47, who registered as a first-time voter last year, hopes to cast his vote at the general elections.

"I never bothered about about the electoral process in the past, but this time my family and I have all decided to register as voters," he said.

Labourer P. Thangasamy hoped that the government would continue to provide annual 'goodies' like the 1Malaysia People's Aid of RM500 for those earning less than RM3,000 and also funds for his children's expenses.

"I have to do two jobs including working as a cleaner and a taxi driver to put my three children through school," he said.

Single mother K. Vasagi from Sri Gading in Batu Pahat, said her biggest New Year wish was to have a roof over her head.

Vasagi is her family's sole breadwinner and had appealed for financial aid but to no avail.

Rela volunteer Daniel Ng Say Kim's wish was for the country to continue to prosper with all the people living peacefully and in harmony.

"All races must be treated fairly and given same opportunities," he added.

Civil servant Mohd Syafiq Anis, 25, has high expectatoins for Malaysia to bag gold medals at the upcoming summer Olympic Games in London.

"Hopefully badminton will deliver the country's first gold in the Olympics," he said.

Student Paul Ong, 18, wanted more internationally-known music bands to pick Malaysia as their concert venue.

"I wish to watch The Strokes, Weezer, Temper Trap and the Arctic Monkeys perform in Malaysia," he said.

Retiree Tan Chua Tee wants the police to deploy more plainclothes personnel to fight crime in his neighbourhood.

"It is good to see our policeman patrolling our housing estates and the city area, but that alone is not enough as we need crimes solved fast," he said .

Secondary school pupil Mohd Fitri Mohd Fauzi, 13, who started Form 1 this year, said he wanted to put more effort into his studies to make his parents proud.

"I will focus more on my weaker subjects like Science and Mathematics and get good results in my exams," said the SMK Tasek Utara student.

Lastly, speech therapist Jason Kee, 39, wants to lose at least 5kgs by the end of this year to promote better health.

"Besides wanting to look good, I want to keep fit and keep my health in check by reducing my waistline," he said.

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Thumbs up for virtual education

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 10:46 PM PST

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Kadazandusun Murut Welfare and Education Association (Pekadin) had hailed the Federal Government's decision to introduce children's education via the virtual concept in schools in two years' time.

The association's advisor Datuk Latif Kandok said the move to personalise children's education in the country was timely and appropriate as it would give virtual schools a position of significant innovation and responsibility.

"This concept is good because it helps facilitate real-time communication with parent-teacher-centred interaction and, at the same time, promotes virtual education using the Internet, especially in rural areas," he added.

Latif was commenting on a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who said the virtual concept would be introduced as a pilot project in some schools next year.

Muhyiddin was quoted as saying that the concept would allow parents to interact with school authorities via video conferencing and that the virtual-learning concept was modelled after that of developed countries such as South Korea.

In welcoming the government's initiative to boost the use of the Internet in education, Latif said with the education system using information communication technology (ICT) and the National Education Information System (NEIS), a computer network connecting all schools would be in place.

"Parents will probably gather more information on their children's educational performance by communicating directly with teachers online," he said.

He added that the introduction of the virtual concept in schools, including in Sabah, augured well for the education system as the country and its people moved towards a borderless world. — Bernama

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School needs RM1mil fund for new building

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:16 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: SJK(C) Chern Hwa in Bukit Pasir is seeking RM1mil in funds from the government to build a new building.

Batu Pahat MP Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi the school had presented a proposal in November last year.

"The school hopes that the government will allocate RM1mil fund for a new building to ease their overcrowded classrooms.

"The cost of a new building is RM5mil in total," he said.

Dr Mohd Puad, who is also Deputy Education Minister, said he had already raised the matter at the ministry recently.

"The school has more than 2,000 students and needs more classrooms for a conducive learning environment," he added.

During the social event, Dr Mohd Puad also conducted a meeting with villagers from Parit Ahmad and Parit Bilal before presenting a RM500 cash aid to the family of a 83-year-old man, who passed away on Dec 27.

He also presented 10 families from Parit Ahmad with hampers comprising cooking oil, biscuits, milk, flour and rice.

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